More than 175 million people worldwide – at least 10 percent of the global population above the age of 60 - suffer from at least one of the myriad forms of arthritic diseases.
It is the most common reason we head to the doctor’s office (ref. 1), and while hundreds of conditions fall into the category of arthritis, the most prevalent forms are osteoarthritis, a degeneration of the joint caused by an injury or age that leads to a loss of cushioning, and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation – specifically to the joints.
Both cause difficulty moving, pain and stiffness, and the two combined help make arthritis-related diseases the fourth leading causes of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Ref. 2). To raise awareness of the preventative measures we can take to protect our joints and connective tissues and keep them healthy, May has been designated Arthritis Awareness Month in the United States to draw attention to arthritis in all its forms.
Battle of the sexes
Like many other health conditions, arthritis looks very different for women and men.
Sixty percent of all arthritis sufferers are women, and they are more likely to develop issues after the age of 50, while men are more likely to experience the joint pain of arthritis before the age of 45.
There are a variety of factors at play here. Men tend to develop problems in their wrists, hips or spine – in part because of work-related repetitive motions or sports injuries - while women more often see problems develop in their hands, knees, ankles and feet, often related to repetitive motion. (Ref. 2)
The same key factors contribute to joint pain for both sexes, however, including age, injury, inflammation, weight and loss of muscle mass.
Many of these problems can be prevented by taking the right steps toward good health, experts say.
Low Impact Exercise Helps
One of the most effective ways to east joint pain is walking (Ref. 3). It has been shown to not only lessen pain, but also decrease fatigue and improve the quality of life for people who suffer from any form of joint pain.
It can be done virtually anywhere – outside to enjoy nature or inside at the gym or mall to avoid the added stress of hills or rugged terrain – and walking needs absolutely no equipment, aside from a good pair of shoes.
Experts suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for good health – that’s 30 minutes per day, five days per week - and walking is a low-impact exercise that isn’t too hard on your knees, hips or joints.
If pain is a problem, the 30-minute walk can be broken into 10-minute, more manageable sessions throughout the day – perfect for walking the dog or taking a trek around the grocery store.
Making sure to get enough exercise – swimming and yoga are other low-impact choices - can also help control your weight. Carrying extra weight puts added stress on your joints, putting you at greater risk of developing problems. (Ref. 5)
The primary cause of arthritis is often a diet lacking in essential nutrients (ref. 4), which doesn’t really bode well for the kids who are growing up on drive-through dinners and processed foods.
Eating a healthy diet – especially the highly-touted Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fish, veggies, nuts, olive oil and seeds – is one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves healthy throughout our lives.
The right foods can keep bones and muscles strong as well as ensure that our joints are naturally lubricated and protected against future ailments.
But given how difficult it can be to take in all the nutrients we need on a regular basis, supplements can make a big difference.
Why Vitamin D is Important
According to a recent study, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to knee pain, and could ultimately predict future problems. (Ref. 6)
Vitamin D is important for bone, cartilage and muscle function, but it is not found in many foods.
A study, from the University of Tasmania in Australia, focused on both men and women aged 50 and above, found that those whose blood showed lower levels of vitamin D at the start of the study were more likely to experience knee pain at the end of the five-year study.
Additional vitamin D supplements for those with normal levels who also had knee pain did not yield any results, however.
“Moderate vitamin D deficiency independently predicts incident, or worsening of, knee pain over 5 years and, possibly, hip pain over 2.4 years,” researchers said. “Therefore correcting moderate vitamin deficiency may attenuate worsening of knee or hip pain in elderly people but giving supplements to those with a higher 25-OHD level is unlikely to be effective.”
Xtend-Life Chairman, Warren Matthews, shares his experience of having a healthy level of vitamin D in his system. “I am almost 67 years old and do not have a hint of arthritis or joint pain. When tested recently for vitamin D levels, mine were very high. I do not take any vitamin D supplements other than what is present in our Total Balance but I get a lot of healthy exposure to sunlight which is likely why my vitamin D levels are high”.
Omega-3, GLM benefits
According to multiple studies, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil supplements have been shown to may help support joints health and reduce joint pain and stiffness. (Ref. 2)
And while the supplements were not shown to slow the progression of existing disease, maintaining proper lubrication through our Omega-3/DHA fish oils and other supplements such as our Green Lipped Mussel Powder may help maintain healthy joints, ease existing joint pain and manage inflammation that can wreak havoc on the body.
Without the proper lubrication, the joint isn’t properly cushioned and won’t work as it should, leading to degeneration and inflammation that often result in pain. After the problem arises, corrective steps include injections of fluid or other surgical interventions, so preventative measures just make sense.